Updated: Mar 28
Unfortunately it’s common for many of us suffer from a tight chest and shoulders. In this blog we’ll be exploring what causes tight shoulders and how to loosen a tight chest and shoulders with three simple yoga poses.
Want to jump right into the yoga stretches? Follow Irene’s guided 5 minute yoga to open your chest and shoulders on YouTube.
What causes a tight chest and shoulders?
There are many reasons as to why you might be suffering from tightness in your chest and shoulders. One of the most common reasons is down to our general posture.
The majority of us spend a lot of time sitting behind screens—whether that’s behind our computer, phone or TV. Often when we sit in front of a screen we aren’t aware of our posture and might be without realizing it causing tightness and pain in our body.
Many of us sit regularly with our head and chin reaching too far forward. Our shoulders might be lifting up towards our ears and the front of our chest might feel closed. If we spend long periods of time in this posture it can make the muscles around our neck, shoulders and chest chronically tight. As well as having sometimes also resulting in back pain.
Another common cause for tightness in your shoulders and chest can be from doing strength exercises like push-ups or the chest press. If you’ve been working on strengthening these muscles, it’s usual that you feel muscle ache as the muscles recover from training.
This type of tension in the muscles after exercise is less concerning than tightness due to poor posture. But it can still feel uncomfortable and restrict movement. Therefore, it’s still useful to address the muscle tightness through yoga to ensure you maintain a full range of movement and mobility.
How to fix a tight chest and shoulders with three simple yoga poses
This yoga sequence for a tight chest and shoulders can be done within 5 minutes. It doesn’t require and preparation and so can be done easily as a yoga break from your desk, in front of the TV or after exercise.
If you do suffer regularly from a tight chest and shoulders I’d recommend that you try these stretches out three times a week to get the most out of them.
(1) Easy Pose Variation | Sukhasana Variation
Moving dynamically in and out of this Easy Pose Variation with the hands interlaced is a great warm up and way to open your shoulders and chest. You can try to reach up your palms with hands interlaced on your inhale and the drop them back down on the exhale.
Experiment with spreading your shoulder blades wide and sinking the tops of your shoulders down as you reach the arms up. Depending on how mobile your chest and front of your shoulders feel you can choose how much you want draw the arms up and back.
If shoulders and chest feel a little tighter you can keep your arms a little lower and more forward. Or even experiment with the hands further apart (and not interlaced).
After a few rounds or as you practice more often you can work on reaching your arms higher and drawing them back.
What should you watch out for?
You’ll find there’s a natural tendency to arch your spine as you reach the arms up. This will give the illusion that you’re going deeper into the pose since you’ll find more space to reach arms back. But this arching of the spine also reduces the stretch in your shoulder.
Do your best to limit the arch in your spine and keep the shoulders roughly in the same place as you reach the arms up.
(2) Cow Face Pose | Gomukhasana
Cow Face Pose gives you the possibility to work on a deeper stretch in the shoulders and chest. Start by bending one arms at the elbow and reach your hand towards the back of your shoulder blades. If it’s not comfortable placing the hand of your bent elbow between your shoulder blades it can rest on the back of your opposite shoulder.
Bring your opposite hand to the elbow of the bent arm and see if you can press the elbow of the bent arm into your opposite hand. Use your inhale to lengthen and exhale to lean a little to the side.
Pause in the posture for a few breaths and then switch to the opposite side.
What should you watch out for?
It’s common in this posture to reach out head forward and strain the neck. See if you can keep your head stacked over your shoulders and back of your neck long.
(3) Puppy Dog Pose | Uttana Shishosana
The full version of the Puppy Dog Pose can feel quite intense so make sure you ease gently into the pose and only go as far as feels comfortable for your body. Start on your hands and knees and then gradually walk your arms out in front. From here you can gradually drop your chest forward.
If having the arms out straight doesn’t feel appropriate feel free to bend your elbows and keep your elbows on the ground. This will ease some of the stretch out of your shoulders.
What should you watch out for?
Try to keep your hips right above your knees. If your hips move forward it will ease some of the stretch out of the shoulders.
Also notice if your breath becomes a little more shallow. Do your best to breathe slowly and steadily in and out through your nose.
What else can help to loosen a tight chest and shoulders?
If you’re interested to learn a wider range of yoga poses for a tight chest and shoulders check out these eight yoga postures for opening your shoulders and chest.
In addition to practicing frequently these yoga postures it’s also helpful if you can notice if you’ve got the tendency for bad posture and see if you can remind yourself frequently while sitting to address this.
By taking the time to notice our posture frequently throughout the day and adjusting it where necessary it can help reduce the tension and tightness of our chest and shoulders.
Good luck and happy practicing!
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